Analysts Speculate Possible Carnival / Hapag-Lloyd Deal

Tuesday, May 29, 2001
Carnival Corp said on Tuesday its growing cash holdings were spurring market speculation that the world's largest cruise group was on the acquisitions trail.

A spokesman for the Miami-based operator of 45 cruise ships, declined to speak directly to reports that Carnival may be working on a bid for Hapag-Lloyd cruises. "It is our policy not to comment on market rumors," he said.

Hapag-Lloyd, a unit of the world's largest travel group Preussag AG, operates five ships in German-speaking countries. A spokesman for Hapag-Lloyd said on Monday he knew of no bid for the company.

With pricing pressure in its core North American markets, Carnival has been looking to Europe for growth.

Just last week, the cruise line announced the sale of a 25 percent equity stake in British travel group Airtours Plc in a transaction expected to yield gross proceeds of nearly $500 million. In addition, the company raised about $900 million in bond offerings in March and April. Some of that money was to repay bridge loans for the purchase last year of the 50 percent portion of Costa it had not owned.

But analyst Robin Farley of UBS Warburg said in a research note that Carnival had now raised more than $1 billion without any pressing needs for capital expenditures.

"Obviously, our recent debt offerings and the sale of our Airtour holdings has added substantially to our cash. That is prompting market speculation," the Carnival spokesman said.

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